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2020 Fellow

Evan Zhao

PhD Institution
Princeton University
Postdoctoral institution and lab

The Collins Research Group, Wyss Institute

Evan is a chemical engineer who has utilized timed light to control and then engineer microbes to produce new, valuable chemicals without the need for fossil fuel-based precursors. During his PhD at Princeton University, Evan used light sensitive proteins, also known as optogenetics, to engineer better microbial cell factories.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, he is now pivoting to work on RNA sensing in cells for medical applications at the Collins research group. Evan aims to utilize a cell’s ability to sense its environment to develop a sensor that could control the production of therapeutic proteins within the cell, tailoring treatment to a patient’s specific needs.

Evan became interested in therapeutic development during the end of his PhD when he applied optogenetics to therapeutic protein activity control. He noticed that there was a lack of control mechanisms for RNA and protein therapeutics that contributed to the adverse effects of drugs and limited use of certain treatments.